Delivering Pumpkins…and Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars!

Really?!  Snow in the forecast?!  Is it THAT time of year already?  Here I was so excited to wake up and share this “fall” recipe with you….and instead, I oughta be sharing a recipe for hot cider…or something else that might warm you to your core.  Oh well :)  The recipe below with satisfy your sweet tooth while we dream up the next warm-your-toes treat!

It was a just a few weeks ago that I spent a much-needed Girls’ Night with friends I don’t see often enough.  One of them, an admittedly “non-cook”, brought a batch of Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars…and I tell you what…I’ve never seen so many grown women asking for more!  (Especially with the calories involved!).  With each of us indulging in seconds and pleading for the recipe, I decided I had to “pinterest” this masterpiece and share it with each of you….as well as with some neighbors.  :)

So…on Sunday morning, we did just that.  We whipped up a batch of this indulgent dessert and packaged them to share with some of our neighbors.  That evening, Bella loaded up some of her “punkins”…decorated over that last few weeks….and headed out in the wagon.  At each door…she handed over a pumpkin and some bars.  She was so proud!  At the last stop “Auntie DeeDee’s”, she gifted her pumpkin, shared her bars…and then proceeded to take off her coat, welcome herself in, and kick Mom and Dad out!  What a riot.  She loves her DeeDee and while we hadn’t intended on walking home with an empty wagon, she made it clear she was staying.  Thank you Deanna for loving our girl.  She sure adores you!

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If you are up for a little baking this week…try this delicious Fall recipe while the apples are ready and plentiful!  And…if you can, share a few with your neighbors.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Recipe from “The Girl Who Ate Everything” Blog

Crust:
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
Cheesecake Filling:
    • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
    • 3/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Apples:
    • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Streusel Topping:
    • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
Drizzle:
  • 1/2 cup caramel topping for drizzling after baked

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or 2 forks) until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 9×13 baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
  3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 3/4 cup sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Then add eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture.
  5. For the streusel topping: In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. I like to really combine it by using my clean hands to thoroughly combine the butter into the mixture.
  6. Sprinkle Streusel topping over apples. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until filling is set. Drizzle with caramel topping and let cool. Serve cold and enjoy! Make 16 servings.

Read more at http://www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com/2010/09/caramel-apple-cheesecake-bars.html#MFxpFr8TG5FulZxx.99

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Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

Spicy Salmon to Celebrate a Decade with Ruby!

Wow!  What a weekend.  After 2 weeks of feeling pretty miserable, I was ready to pack in as much celebration and relaxation as possible!

What was there to celebrate?!  Well…2 things.  First, last Tuesday was our 8th Wedding Anniversary.  WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?  That’s right, after 8 years of dating (keep in mind, I was only 15 when we started dating…crazy!), on Aug 20, 2005, we finally tied the knot.  Appropriately, Etta James’ “At Last” played as we danced our first dance.  :)  So on Tuesday evening, we headed out to MY favorite Iowa City restaurant, Baroncini, for a casual italian dinner.  Delish!  But, with Baby B3-on-board, we wanted to get out and spend some additional alone time.  With a call to Brittany, we were able to sneak out of the house on Saturday morning and spend the WHOLE day alone in Des Moines…just bumming around, stopping at our favorite shops, and grabbing an indulgent and delicious lunch.  I can’t explain just how refreshing those 12 hours were…reconnecting as we wandered…just the two of us…no distractions…no timeline…no agenda.  I laughed as we drove over thinking 16 years ago we did the same thing…jumped in the car, drove over to Appleton WI, and shopped our hearts out for the day.  The only difference was our choice of retailers…and perhaps, the “fit” of our clothes.  Somehow Rue 21 and oversized shirts don’t sound quite as appealing.  Ahh, the memories.  :)

In addition to an anniversary, we had a very special birthday to celebrate!  Speaking of “where does the time go?!”, the first love-of-our-lives, turned TEN on Friday.  What?!   Ruby Tuesday…aka, Pickle Monster, rang in a decade.  I know this phrase gets over used all the time but, seriously, I don’t know what life would have been like without this little dog!  Ruby is sooooo HUMAN.  I will never forget the time (ok, one of the many times) we smuggled her into a hotel…and Ryan would say, “Hey…she’s more human than half the kids here.”  True story.  Ruby is smart….funny…compassionate…protective…and without question, one of a kind.  As she ages, she drives me more and more crazy with that dang ball…wanting to play fetch CONSTANTLY.  But with every toss, I’m grateful she’s still here to bring it back.  She’s been a great little dog…and an awesome “big sis” to Bella. 

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We love you , Ruby!

To honor this little munchkin, we decided to whip up a Ruby’s favorite dinner on Friday night and invite over some of her favorite people.   :)  What do you make for your DOG on their 10th birthday, you ask?  SALMON.  Ruby loves Salmon!  I had been dying to whip up a “Spicy Salmon” recipe that my sister and her boyfriend “Chef Moreno…aka Dr Moreno”, made for us on a recent visit, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity.  Reviews at the big table (adults) and reviews on the floor (Ruby) were a hit!  (I left the spicy sauce off of Ruby’s plate…she just enjoyed a generous serving of fish!)

So for all the salmon lovers out there, enjoy this quick and easy weeknight salmon recipe.  You can’t go wrong!

Spicy Salmon

Serves 3-4

  • 1.5-2 lb fresh salmon

Sauce

  • 1 tbsp. Sriracha sauce
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp. fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white rice seasoned vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • ½ tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce (low sodium)
  • 2 tsp. corn starch
  • Handful of Basil, chopped for garnish

Preheat the grill to 400 degrees.

While the grill heats, combine sauce ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce to low heat and let simmer.

Rub salmon with EVOO and salt & pepper.  Lay the fish, skin-side down, on the grill.  Cook for 4-5 minutes, flip, and cook for 2-3 minutese longer (for medium).

Serve salmon hot, and top with the “spicy sauce”.  Plate up a few of your favorites on the side! 

IMG_1136-2*My **My recommendation:  Double up the sauce recipe.  Ryan and I both enjoy the flavor so much that we wanted more!  More on the salmon….and more to dress our broccoli and couscous as well.  :)

Indulge.  In Life. In Love. In Food.

LIGHT Shrimp Fettucine Alfredo

Good Morning!  Rise and Shine.  :)

20 weeks.  Really?  There is a part of me that says, “Wow…this pregnancy is flying by.”  And then, there’s this other part of me that screams, “That’s IT?!”  Whatever the case, we are half way there…half way to Christmas…half way to a baby we hope is our greatest gift yet.  While yesterday marked 20 Weeks, today is our “Official” Ultrasound at UIHC.  I’m nervous.  I’m excited.  I’m ready to take a another peak at this blessing we know as Baby B3.  Will our ultrasound with Abbey prove right again?  Is Beau sending us another little boy?  Most importantly, will he be healthy?  Prayers sent.  Fingers crossed.

Unlike my pasta cravings when I am NOT pregnant, the first trimester brought an interesting craving for me…ALFREDO.  Fortunately, I was sharp enough (despite the extreme exhaustion) to look up a “healthier” alfredo…or at the very least, a “lower cal…lower fat” option.  To my surprise, this Cooking Light recipe hit.the.spot.  In fact, I’ve whipped it up a couple of times for friends as well.  And, there were “thumbs up” all around! 

If you, like me, suddenly crave an alfredo dish, give this one a try!  I think you will be pleasantly surpised….and there will be zero guilt afterwards!  INDULGE!

Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo

Cooking Light SEPTEMBER 2011

Serves 4 (serving size: about 1 cup)

  • 1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated fettuccine (I used FRESH fettuccine noodles).
  • 1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/3 cup half-and-half
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • My addition…a splash or two of dry white wine!
Cook the pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Combine shrimp, onions, and garlic in a small bowl. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil; swirl to coat. Add shrimp mixture, and sauté for 4 minutes or until shrimp are done. Remove from pan; keep warm.
 

Reduce heat to medium. Add reserved cooking liquid, Parmigiano-Reggiano, half-and-half, cream cheese, white wine, and pepper to pan. Cook 2 minutes or until cheeses melt. Combine pasta, cheese mixture, and shrimp mixture.

Sprinkle with parsley (and a little extra cheese if you wanna get crazy!)

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Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

Spicy Vodka Cream Pasta

Good Morning!  Long time no post!

I will spare you the whole, “I can’t believe it has been MONTHS since I posted last”…because well, you’ve heard that before.  :)  I am more and more amazed every day at how quickly time flies.  Between a toddler…a couple pregnancies…working full-time and managing several hobbies, time really gets away from me.  :)

The trouble is, I have so many recipes and photos piling up that I am dying to share with you.  And…selfishly, get posted to “my” online cookbook.  See, so often, as I’m wandering the aisles of HyVee, I have Indulge pulled on my phone as my “go-to” recipes and grocery lists.  I’d be lost without this blog!  Funny…I still carry a paper calendar/planner…but when it comes to recipes, it is all electronic.  Somtimes I think my cookbooks are just sitting on the shelf to look pretty! 

Anyway, before I dig too far into this post, I want to send a shout out to my husband.  If it weren’t for his golf additiction, I wouldn’t feel so good about sneaking out of the house on a Sunday morning for some alone time…just me and my computer…and an Iced Latte…and sure, a Lemon Poppyseed Muffin.  (Ahh….JAVA HOUSE I LOVE YOU!).  It occurred to me yesterday as Ryan was out golfing for 6 hours (which I fully support, btw), why don’t I ever take a few hours to get away by myself??  So, today I did…and I am whipping together several posts…recipes…and photos!  I am indulging in this quiet time and so very thrilled to be blogging again. :)

Speaking of months…it was almost 3 months ago that we traveled to Northern MN to celebrate Ryan’s Grandma Maki.  It was Mother’s Day weekend…and seemed appropriate that we were joining in a Memorial for Gram.  I loved that little lady…so very witty…and sassy…just how I like ‘em!  I suppose, it was also quite appropriate that after losing Beau in January, we were also newly pregnant with the baby are now expecting on Christmas.  So, as a first trimester reprieve, we extended our stay on the North Shore for a few days at Grand Superior Lodge.  Those of you who have been following the blog since it’s start know that GSL is one of my very favorite places on Earth.  Rustic.  Tranquil.  And the ultimate in relaxation.

We were thrilled to be joined by our friends the Loftsgaardens.  Spending the days individually with our families and joining up in the evening to share homemade dinners (and letting the kids run wild together).  As I pondered what to make, I decided to go for a new recipe.  Despite Ryan’s argument, “When cooking for guests, we should make something we KNOW is good”, I rebelled.  :)  I was craving something new!  Maybe it was the simplicity or maybe it was the title “You Won’t Be Single for Long Vodka Cream Pasta” that tempted me, but it was Rachael’s Rays Vodka Cream Pasta that made the cut.  What resulted, after a few tweaks of my own, was rave reviews!  So, the next time you are looking for an easy…but guaranteed delicious pasta dish, you will have to give this one a try.  It would be hard to go wrong!

Spicy Vodka Cream Pasta

Original Recipe by Rachael Ray – adapted to our taste!

Serves 4

“This recipe will make enough for two couples. If you plan a romantic evening where more than two’s a crowd, reserve half the sauce to freeze for another supper before the addition of basil, and only cook 1/2 to 2/3 pound of penne.”

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil,, once around the pan in a slow stream
  • 1 tablespoon butter,
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes with garlic and EVOO
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  • 16 ounces pasta, such as rigatoni
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Crushed Red Pepper to taste
  • Shaved Parmesan or Romano for garnish
  • 20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn
  • Crusty bread, for passing

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan, 3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup. Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, crushed red pepper. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.

 Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce, shaved parmesan, and basil leaves. Pass pasta with crusty bread and serve with your favorite red wine! 

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If you are looking for a new red wine, we recommend BRAZIN Old Vine Lodi 2010.  We picked up several bottles while in Two Harbors, MN on a super deal…I can’t wait until January for another glass :)

Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

The Best Ever Ham & Cheese Sammies

Good Morning from the cold…but oh-so-beautiful, Minnesota!  As we cozy in for a day on the lake with family, I wanted to be sure to share a “Super Bowl” style appetizer with all of you.  :)

Another football season has come and nearly gone.  Tomorrow, football fans around the country will be cheering on their chosen team as they fight for the title, “Super Bowl Champions”.   Oh how I wish it were the Packers getting down to business….fighting for that coveted Lombardi trophy!   While me and my fellow Cheeseheads won’t need to sport our Green and Gold,  you can bet we will be parked in front of the tube, (hopefully with a handful of friends), indulging in one last football Sunday showdown…with a cold beer and tailgate-approved food in hand. 

For those of you throwing a party….or crashing a party, I have the PERFECT dish for you to share.  I’ve mentioned these delicious sliders once before (Halloween Party 2012), but today I am handing over the recipe.  While I have since seen this recipe (or a similar concoction) on Pinterest, the original credit goes to my friend “Tews”.  It was just 2 years ago that Jenny whipped these up for her Christmas Eve gathering.  As I was walking out the door, she was pulling them out of the oven.  One whif and I sat right back down to enjoy one…or two! 

In all seriousness, if you are looking for a sure hit…a “dish of the night” appetizer, I suggest you get out to the grocery store this morning and start preparing for these Ham and Cheese Sammies (they will need to marinate overnight).  You will thank me later.  Promise.

Ham & Cheese Sammies

Recipe from Jenny “Tews” McCauley

  • 1 bag of Rhodes dinner rolls (in freezer section) – 36 rolls
  • 1-2 pkgs swiss cheese slices
  • 2 lbs Sliced Deli Ham 
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire
  • 4 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of dry mustard
 
Bake 9×13 pan of rolls according to directions – cool.  Slice rolls and stuff with meat and cheese. 
 
Melt butter with worcestershire and brown sugar.  Add the rest of the dry incredients.  Bring to a boil and then pour over sammies and marinate overnight. 
 
Bake @ 350 for 15-25 minutes (or until cheese is melted and buns are crisp)
 
INDULGE!!  There is no better word for these heavenly sandwiches than…INDULGENT.
 
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Photo from blogger, The Girl Who Ate Everything. 
 

Whoever it is you are cheering for tomorrow, enjoy the game…the company…and the food!

Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

 
 

Spengler’s Farmer’s Market Pizza

Have you ever had something to eat, whether it was at a restaurant or prepared by a friend that you thought to yourself, “I LOVE THIS.” And then, for weeks and months afterwards, you crave it??  The craving leaves you desperately wracking your brain trying to master it? Ok, call me crazy, but I have.

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Ryan, Erin, and that adorable Jackson Spengler

Last fall, we spent a fun evening with our friends, Erin & Ryan Spengler. While Erin and I played with the munchkins in the backyard, Ryan and Ryan chit-chatted in the kitchen and whipped up a couple of amazing homemade pizzas.  (Ok, my Ryan sipped a glass of wine while he watched the other Ryan make pizza.) The first ‘zza to hit that table was a Barbeque Chicken and the second, “The Farmer’s Market”.  That morning, while strolling the market, Ryan (Spengler) had picked up a variety of peppers, leeks, onions, garlic, goat cheese, and fresh basil. And for us, he whipped it all up into this delicious pizza I have been craving ever since!

You may think I am exaggerating here…ohhhh but I’m not. If you aren’t anything like me, let me explain. Once I get fixated on something, I HAVE to have it. Once my mind is set on something…doing something, making something, EATING something, it just HAS to happen. (Maybe that’s why I also work in sales!) Ryan would tell you that this is not always one of my better qualities. I can be relentless. In other instances, I know he finds it down-right endearing. At least that’s what he said in his wedding speech. (I like to remind him of that.)

Since that wonderful fall evening, there have been several occasions in which I’ve begged and pleaded to have this pizza.  On one such evening, Ryan went to the store (while I waited at home, mouth-watering, for his return with “farmer’s market ingredients”) and instead he showed with a Costco pre-made supreme. What?!?! Apparently he wasn’t up for the Spengler’s challenge that night. I was crushed. Since then however, he has mastered it! Yes. HE has mastered it. While I was pregnant with Beau, he worked to satisfy this craving. I was exhausted…like nobody’s business, and I think he knew that re-creating this pizza was the least he could do to keep Momma happy. :)

Let me tell ya, last night he rocked it! Creating the perfect crust was the real kicker in this process but also deciding on the right toppings, in the right order, were crucial.  Paired with one of my favorite bottles of wine, a Dry Creek Valley Zin, this pizza was just exactly what we’d hoped it would be.   As I wrapped up my Cleanse phase of Advocare’s 24 Day Challenge, indulging in a carb-o-licious meal was in order! 

We owe Ryan Spengler a HUGE thank you for introducing us to this recipe and spurring this challenge…re-creating “Farmer’s Market Pizza”.  

FARMER’S MARKET PIZZA

Inspired by Ryan Spengler

  • 1 Red Pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 Yellow or Orange Pepper (or both!), thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Sweet Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 Leeks, thinly sliced (cut off and discard “greens”)
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 stick Butter
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 Handful Spinach, chopped
  • 6 Basil leaves, torn
  • 4 oz Goat Cheese, crumbled
  • Mozzarella, freshly grated
  • Crust

Crust:

For us, the crust was especially important.  While I’m usually a thin crust fan, I wanted this pizza to be much like Spengler’s…fluffy, airy, bubbly!  To accomplish this, we used a “Pizza Crust Mix.”  (Since we didn’t have Ryan’s amazing dough recipe).  Added to the powder mix was a few dashes of garlic salt and  1/4 pkt of quick rise yeast (1/4 of a 1/4 oz pkt…not much).  Upon mixing as directed, the dough sat, covered, for 2-3 hours (or longer if you are able).  Ryan then rolled out the dough on our pizza stone and let it rise for 1 hour.  From there, he baked as directed.  IF you aren’t up for fussing with dough, certainly, use your favorite pre-made crust.

Preheat oven to 425 Degrees.

Pizza:

1. While dough is rising, saute on medium-low heat, peppers, onions, leeks, and 1 clove of garlic in butter until all are semi-soft.  Set aside.

2.  In a small bowl, combine EVOO, 2 cloves minced garlic, and torn basil leaves.

3.  Once crust is removed from oven, build your ‘zza! 

  • Start by brushing the crust with the EVOO mixture.  Be sure to spread evenly.
  • Next, create a layer of chopped spinach leaves.
  • Top with the sautéed peppers, onions, and leeks.
  • Sprinkle crumbled goat cheese (generously).
  • Finish with freshly grated mozzarella.

4.  Bake pizza for ~10 minutes at 425 degrees until crust is ready and cheese is starting to brown.

5.  Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes.  Slice and serve!

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What can I say?  I have a new favorite pizza!  It just might…yes might, be on the menu again tonight!

Enjoy your Sunday evening, everyone.  Sunday night is probably our favorite night of the week.  Always a home-cooked meal.  Always spent the 4 of us…just cozied up. :)

Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

Beef Bourguignon For The Soul

I can hardly believe a week has passed since we lost our sweet little boy. The week leading up to “Goodbye” seemed so long and torturous…while this week flew by…a rollercoaster of tears, numbness, and peace. While Ryan eased back into the hustle and bustle of work, frantically writing and pursuing looming deadlines, I took each day as it came. While my body slowly healed, I tackled a list of to-dos, a list of activities that would help ease my heart and my mind. From returning my maternity clothes to compiling a box of mementos to piecing together a book of FB messages, texts, and emails to picking up his ashes, I used every hour I had to find a permanent place in our home and hearts for Beau, find peace and understanding for myself, and find a sense of normalcy for our family.  During an evening conversation with Ryan, he suggested starting a new tradition…whether it be once a week or once a month, regularly doing an activity for Beau…an activity he would have enjoyed, so that he is forever present and in some small way, a part of Bella (and future children’s) lives.  I stood amazed (and tearful) as Ryan made his thoughtful suggestion…I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where did this guy come from?!  What an awesome Dad.”   As it turns out, though much more quietly than me, he too has spent the week searching for our new normal. 

In this week-long journey toward healing, I asked myself over and over again, “Robin, why did He choose you?” and “Robin, how are you going to make the most of this loss, this hurt, this lesson, this GIFT?” Ironically, messages and phone calls continued to come in encouraging me to write a book. At first I thought, “Really? Where would I find the time?!” But then, my wheels wouldn’t stop spinning. Before I knew it, I had a page full of bullet-points…a page full of details I would be honored to share with the world. So, logically, I scoured Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and the web for current titles…books already published on this painful process. Not surprisingly, I found THREE. There are countless books on miscarriage and infant loss but only three (that I could find) on pregnancies like ours. Pregnancies that “are not compatible with life” evidently are also pregnancies “that are not talked about”.   Perhaps it’s too painful?  Or somehow, too shameful.  But then maybe, just maybe, that is my role in all of this. Maybe I should write a book? What do you think?

As I alluded to above, the outpouring of support has been humbling. I realize now, that it isn’t until the darkest of days, that we fully realize the love and support that surrounds us. I will be the first to admit, it was just a few months ago that I spent a Saturday afternoon crying on the couch, missing my friends and family in MN and WI, feeling so alone in Iowa. And then, fast forward to January 12th and we are surrounded by more love, encouragement, and support than I could have ever dreamed. So many of those cheering us on and lifting us up were right here…right here in Iowa where I somehow had felt so alone. To all of those friends, I cannot thank you enough. We will never forget your thoughtfulness, compassion, or sincerity. One of these special friends, also dropped by with a delicious dinner. Not only were we so grateful to have dinner prepared for us but Ines made us a meal we’d never had…a version of Julia Child’s Beouf Bourguignon. Delicious! 

Whether you are looking for some gourmet comfort food or a meal to please the “Meat and Potatoes” lover in your household, you really need to give this recipe a try.  They say “Chicken soup is good for the soul”…well, I beg to differ.  They haven’t had Beouf Bourguignon!

Below I’ve included Julia Child’s recipe, with Ines’ modifications. Ines, one of the most beautiful and classy women know, is also one of the most practical and “no-fuss”, women I know. We are all fortunate to have had her master this recipe for us first! And the gorgeous photo below (c’mon, beouf bourguignon is not the “prettiest” of dishes) was taken by another blogger “Split Personality”. I didn’t have it in me to pull out my camera and attempt to shoot a photo that could compete with this one. :)

Boeuf Bourguignon

Recipe Courtesy of Julia Child (Simply Recipes)

Serves 6-8

• 6 oz bacon
• 2 to 3 Tbsp olive oil
• 4 lbs trimmed beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes, patted dry with paper towels
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
• 2 cups sliced onions (~ 2 medium onions)
• 1 cup sliced carrots
• 1 bottle of red wine (Ines recommends an $8-$10 bottle of Chianti…it makes a difference!)
• 2 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
• 1 cup chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
• 1 medium herb bouquet (tie 8 parsley sprigs, 1 large bay leaf, 1 tsp dried thyme, 2 whole cloves or allspice berries, and 3 large cloves of smashed garlic together wrapped and tied in cheesecloth)
• Beurre manié: 3 Tbsp flour blended to a paste with 2 Tbsp butter (thin with 1/8 cup chicken stock or water)
• 24 pearl onions
• Chicken stock (use to cover onions ½ way)
• Butter (1 tsp)
• 1 1/2 pounds of button or cremini mushrooms, quartered
• 1 tsp sugar

METHOD
1 Blanch the bacon to remove its smoky taste. Drop bacon slices into 2 quarts of cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer 6 to 8 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, and dry on paper towels.
2 In a large frying pan, sauté the blanched bacon to brown slightly in a little oil; set them aside and add later to simmer with the beef, using the rendered fat in browning. Brown the chunks of beef on all sides in the bacon fat and olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and put them into a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or covered casserole pan. Cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces and add to the pan.
3 Remove all but a little fat from the frying pan, add the sliced vegetables and brown them, and add to the meat. Deglaze the pan with wine, pouring it into the casserole along with enough stock to almost cover the meat. Stir in the tomatoes and add the herb bouquet (and the bacon). Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer slowly on the lowest heat possible, either on the stove or in a preheated 325°F oven, until the meat is tender, about 1 to 2 hours.
4 While the stew is cooking, prepare the onions. Blanch the onions in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Slice the end tips off of the onions, peel the onions and score the root end with 1/4 inch cuts. Sauté onions in a single layer in a tablespoon or two of butter until lightly browned. Add chicken stock or water half way up the sides of the onions. Add a teaspoon of sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer slowly for 25 minutes or until tender. The onions should absorb most of the water. If there is water remaining after cooking, drain the excess. Set aside.
5 Prepare the mushrooms a few minutes before serving the stew. Sauté quartered mushrooms in a few tablespoons of butter and olive oil until browned and cooked through.
6 When the stew meat has cooked sufficiently, remove all solids from the sauce (except the beef) by draining through a colander set over a saucepan. Return the beef to the casserole. Press juices out of the residue into the cooking liquid, then remove any visible fat and boil down the liquid to 3 cups. Off heat, whisk in the beurre manié, then simmer for 2 minutes as the sauce thickens lightly. Correct seasoning and pour over the meat, folding in the onions and mushrooms. To serve, bring to a simmer, basting meat and vegetables with the sauce for several minutes until hot throughout.

Julia_Child's_boeuf_bourguignon

Serve with rice, pasta, or potatoes.  Pair with a nice glass of red wine and enjoy!

Thank you, Ines, for preparing a delicious and soothing dinner.  You are so very thoughtful!

Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

Our Sweet Beau Boudreau

To all of our family, our friends, and Indulge followers, today I share with you our story.  There will be no delicious recipe at the end of this post or photos to wet your appetite.  Instead, you will find our journey, one we must share as our recipe for healing.

It’s been nearly a week since I posted a vote on Facebook.  As many of you know, we were 15 to 16 weeks pregnant and wondering…were we expecting a girl…or a boy?  By Monday evening, we were headed to Cedar Rapids to do an ultrasound with our dear friend Abbey, just as we had during our pregnancy with Bella.  Abbey greeted us with her warm smile, and we joked about just what exactly we’d find.  Would Bella have a sister…or a brother?  Would I need to start shopping or would Bella’s wardrobe become hand-me-downs?  Just before starting the scan, I looked to Abbey and said, “Abbey, remember, if you see that something is wrong with the baby….tell me.  It is okay to tell me.”  In her compassionate and professional voice, she said, “Of course. It won’t be official, but I will tell you.”  This was the same conversation we’d had before scanning Bella.  I’ve always been comfortable with miscarriage. In fact, I’ve always found it to be a truly amazing function of the female body.  And I’ve always accepted the potential for this to occur… as well as defects, abnormalities, malformations…they are all possible.

Fortunately, as we started the scan, our little Beau was head down and rump up.  Like any good little boy, he was proud to make it abundantly clear that he was a boy.  I was shocked.  I think Ryan was too…and Abbey, well she was just grinning from ear to ear.  I think her words were, “It looks like we will be throwing you another baby shower!”

From there, Abbey began scanning the rest of his tiny body.  As she approached his head, I immediately felt my heart sink.  I calmly but abruptly said, “What’s wrong with his head?”  It was clear to the three of us that something was drastically wrong.  Unfortunately, there was no one in the office to call in, no one to grab a second opinion from, no one to make sense of what we were seeing.  Poor Abbey tried to find comforting words and encouraging explanations, but clearly, we had all shut down.  Ryan, having a background in neuroscience, knew that Beau’s skull and brain were malformed.  Even I, from the few images I could make sense of, knew the diagnosis and prognosis, could not possibly be good.

After a night of tears, questions, and mounting fear, I called the University of Iowa Hospital immediately on Tuesday morning.  I pleaded with them to see us….how could we possibly wait?  Despite my efforts, we were encouraged to visit on Wednesday with the Fetal Genetics Team.  The rest of Tuesday was torturous.  What was wrong with our son?  Had I done something wrong?  Was there something wrong with us?  Could he live?  And most gut-wrenching of all, would we be asked to choose?  In those hours, Abbey met with two of the OB Physicians in her office.  Though extremely rare, both physicians believed that Beau suffered from some form of acrania (missing skull) and that the severity of the defect would leave virtually no chance for survival.

Through the tears, I prayed.  I prayed over and over again for God to make Beau’s condition clear to us.  I prayed for clear scans, absolute diagnoses/prognoses, and for the decision to be HIS, not ours.  With the help of a dear friend, I also prayed that we would be given no more than we could handle.  No less…but no more.

As we sat in the waiting room at UIHC on Wednesday morning, I was consumed with fear, guilt, and pain.  I remember scanning the room and fighting terrible thoughts…terrible questions about the others that sat around us.  Through the frustration and anger, I reminded myself that being a good parent, a healthy 30-something, and a hard-working, contributing member of society doesn’t make me exempt from heartache, tragedy, or struggle.  Maybe it was just our turn.  Maybe we had something to learn.  Maybe, just maybe, life happens.

After what felt like hours, we made our way into the ultrasound with a team of 7+ staff.  I laid on that table, Ryan by my side, and baby Beau up on the screen as Doctors discerned several abnormalities throughout his body. With tears streaming down our faces, they confirmed our worst fears.  Beau suffered from severe acrania (missing much of his skull) and a sizeable portion of his brain was protruding through the opening and developing abnormally.  The Doctor looked at us and said, “The prognosis is extremely poor. The extent of these defects are incompatible with life.”  I cannot put into words the pain and suffering that followed.  How could this sweet little boy have not a chance?  There would be no divine miracles.  There would be no medical miracles.  As hard as this was to accept, we found peace trusting this must be part of God’s plan.  This WAS His plan.  Somehow, we’d have to prepare for goodbye.  We were losing him before we’d ever get to hold him.

In the day and hours that followed, we had many more tears…and even a few laughs.  At one point, with his hand on my stomach, Ryan said, “That little stinker.  He is already looking out for his big sis.  Apparently he doesn’t think it’s time to steal her thunder.”  Oh, and she sure does have thunder!  J  In those hours, the FB messages continued to come in…requesting an update…” boy or girl?”  As hard as it was to be asked over and over again, I never once regretted sharing our pregnancy…or sharing Beau…with the world. But, I guess I was wrong about the booties… as now I know that our little boy will be barefoot, walking on the beaches of heaven…

And yesterday, the time came to say goodbye.  Yesterday, our sweet Beau was delivered and handed over to Heaven.  We are completely and utterly crushed by his departure but feel so very fortunate to have had him in our lives.  He is our son.  He will forever be with us.  And most importantly, he has taught us so very much in just 5 days…about love, about life, about the strength of our marriage, about the compassion and support around us, about parenthood, and about loss.  He is nothing but a blessing, and we are proud to share his story… a story that should not go untold.

Though I asked to see him, the staff urged me not to due to the extent of his head malformations, particularly, those of his face (double cleft) which were previously not apparent in the ultrasound.  In addition to his cranial and brain defects, his left hand and foot were severely deformed, lending support to some type of genetic syndrome caused by a chromosomal abnormality. I trust the staff’s decision…for now we will always remember him as that beautiful little boy we’d dreamed of sharing in our future…one who probably looked so much like his daddy.

As we struggle through the rest of this journey, we have so much to be grateful for.  First and foremost, our biggest thanks goes to Abbey…for her honesty, her courage, and her unwavering support.  Without her, we would not have caught this for yet another 5 weeks at the official 20 week ultrasound. We also thank the medical team at UIHC, for their compassion, their candor, and their care.  I never wondered if I was in the right hands or the right place.  We thank all of our friends and family who have cried with us and prayed with us.  We thank God for answering our prayers.  Though we lost Beau, we trust that this was His plan, which hopefully someday we will fully understand.  And finally, we are thankful for our Sweet Bella….for her smiles and her cuddles.  She was our constant reminder that the chances of Beau’s condition were akin to being struck by lightning… and that someday… we will experience the birth of yet another healthy child.

It is my hope that each of you reading this story will learn something from our struggle.  And God forbid, should any parent have to experience this down the road, may you feel comfortable reaching out to us.  Had one of my dearest girlfriends not confided her story with me years ago, this struggle would have been much darker.  May you all hug your children extra-long this evening.  May you appreciate the delicacies in creating life.  No pregnancy is a given.  Life is fragile and fleeting.  We must appreciate every gift, in every form, every day.

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Beau, you are a beautiful baby boy, and your memory is one we will never let go. Sweet son of ours, we will forever love you and miss you…to Heaven and back.

Christmas with Giada

2012 will go down in the books as the first year we hosted Christmas.  Traveling 5+ hours with Bella in the backseat (who now boycotts her car seat after 2 hours), didn’t sound like a whole lot of fun. Neither did sleeping in a guest bed…for I spend so many nights away from home as it is.  So there was our decision.  We’d host!   As with all events and weekends that we entertain, I was excited to plan the menu(s). Fortunately or unfortunately, my pregnant brain said, “Robin, you just CAN’T do every meal…for 5 days…not this time.”  Instead I focused on a full evening of heavy hor’s devours for Christmas Eve and an elegant meal for Christmas Day. It is those recipes of Giada’s that I must share with you, for they were wonderful! 

Christmas dinner preparation with my Sous Chef:  Prime Rib w/ Marsala Sauce, Marscapone Mashed Potatoes, & Parmesan Asparagus

Sous Chef

Roasted Prime Rib with Thyme and Marsala

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

4 to 6 servings

Beef:

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 6-pound bone-in beef prime rib roast, trussed (I had 6.5lbs for 6ppl)

Sauce:

  • 2 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 cup sweet marsala
  • 3 tablespoons arrowroot  (I used Flour)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the beef:   Allow the beef to stand at room temperature before roasting, 30 minutes. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Mix together the thyme, salt, pepper and garlic in a small bowl.  Make 1-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slits all over the meat using a paring knife.  Rub the garlic mixture into the slits and onto the rest of the meat. Place the meat, fat-side up, in a shallow roasting pan.  Roast for 45 minutes.  Cover the meat with foil and continue to roast until a meat thermometer inserted straight down into the center of the meat registers 145 degrees F for medium-rare, 65 to 75 minutes.  Place the roast on a baking sheet and tent with foil. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.

For the sauce:  Combine any juices from the rested meat with the broth, marsala, arrowroot and thyme in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer until thick, 20 minutes.  Whisk in the butter until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce into a serving pitcher.

Slice the roast into 1/2-inch-thick slices and arrange on a platter.  Serve the sauce alongside.

prime rib

Mashed Potatoes with Kale

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Serves:  4 to 6 servings

Potatoes:

  • 5 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 4 pounds)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Kale:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 12-ounce bunch kale, stemmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Assembly:

  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature (about 8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning

For the potatoes:  Combine the potatoes, garlic, salt and butter in a 5-quart saucepan with enough cold water to cover.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.  Drain in a colander and remove the garlic cloves.  Return the potatoes to the pan and mash the potatoes until smooth using a potato masher.

For the kale:  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, salt and pepper.  Cook until translucent, about 6 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds.  Add the kale and chicken broth.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, 10 to 12 minutes.

 To assemble: Add the kale mixture, mascarpone cheese, chicken broth, butter, Parmesan, salt and pepper to the potatoes.  Stir over low heat until smooth and warmed through. Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a bowl and serve.

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Like I mentioned above, we served these 2 delicious Giada recipes with a side of Roasted Parmesan Asparagus.   Paired with a nice bottle of red wine, this meal was just what Santa ordered! 

Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Friends! 

Here we are…closing out day 2 of 2013.  Our resolutions have been set and we are back to work…back to “real” life after the holidays.  On FB yesterday, I think my husband said it best, “I’m sort of diggin’ 2013 so far… did some much needed deep cleaning in the living room… had some good daytime fun with Bella… got the Babymoon booked… and am sitting here “stuffed” after a king crab legs dinner (compliments of Robin). Hopefully, this is only the beginning to my best year yet!”  As I read his update, I thought, “Isn’t that what life is all about?  Enjoying a balanced mix of all the big AND little things…like the sense of accomplishment after chores (and the freshness of a deep clean), the simplicity of playing with a child, the excitement of travel, the anticipation of new life, and the occasional indulges…like King Crab for dinner at home.”  I knew I married a smart one…but with each year that passes, I appreciate more and more the depth and heart that goes along with those brains!

As I think about my own resolutions for 2013…or “to-dos” as I like to call them, I realize it has been another 2 months since my last post on Indulge.  This year, instead of resolving again to resume consistent posts, I’m vowing to accept that I can’t.  In fact, I’m ready to accept that I can’t do it all…period.  This isn’t easy for me…but I’m ready to try!  The cooking won’t stop….nor will the entertaining…or the photography…or the blogging…I will just stop beating myself up when I don’t get to “it” as often as I’d like…or quite honestly, as “perfectly” as I’d like.  Between working full-time ( traveling several times a month), striving to be a fully engaged parent, and always remembering that marriage requires time/effort as well, the hours somehow run short.  It’s best I accept this now!  :)

Whatever your resolutions entail, may you find the perseverance to follow through.  Enjoy the little things…as much as you do the big things.  Live in the moment instead of always looking to the next.  Remember that with each challenge comes an opportunity.  And with each new day…the chance to create another delicious dinner! 

So the next time you are looking for a fabulous recipe…perhaps for your next date-night at home, give this one a try.   We made this recipe for the first time a few months ago and as with any new recipe, I create a list of notes (adaptations, additions, substitutions, etc).  When I came down to the kitchen the next morning, I found my notes had been scribbled all over.  Ryan wrote, “VERY VERY GOOD.  YUM YUM YUM!”  So, as you can imagine, we’ve whipped it up several times since.  :)

CHICKEN PARMESAN

Adapted from recipes by Giada de Laurentiis and Bon Appetit

Basic Tomato Sauce

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated peeled carrots
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 28-ounce cans peeled whole tomatoes in juice, crush by hand
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with garlic and olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • Salt and Pepper
Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onions and garlic; sauté until onions are soft and golden, about 10 minutes.  Add carrots and thyme; sauté until carrots are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes with juice.  Add red wine.  Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until sauce thickens and is reduced to generous 5 cups, about 1 hour.  Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.  DO AHEAD Sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly.  Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm sauce before using.

Chicken

  • 3 tablespoons ol
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4-6 small chicken breasts
  • Basic Tomato Sauce, recipe above
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • Fresh Basil

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Brush both sides of the chicken breasts with the oil and season with salt and pepper.  Heat a heavy large oven-proof skillet over high heat.  Add the chicken and cook just until brown, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove the skillet from the heat.

Spoon the tomato over and around the chicken.  Sprinkle mozzarella over each breast.  Sprinkle the butter pieces atop the chicken.  Bake until the cheese melts and the chicken is cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. 

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Plate and top with fresh basil.  Serve with a glass of Sangiovese and enjoy! 

(And forgive this photo.  Shooting food in the winter…in a dark kitchen/dining room, isn’t one of my strengths.  If only I could find more time to focus on learning those photography skills!  LOL)

Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.